Saturday, June 2, 2012

2012 HK Trip - Knowing Hong Kong through MTR Stations Part 3

Location: S.A.R. Hong Kong, China

Note: This is an article continuing from Knowing Hong Kong through MTR Stations Part 2.

New Territories ( 新界 )

Traditional Chinese: 新界
Simplified Chinese: 新界
Cantonese Jyutping: san1 gaai3
Pin Yin: Xīn Jiè
Pronounced as: saan gaai

The New Territories are, interestingly, the least interesting in the minds of most tourists. But the fact that it makes up over 80% of Hong Kong's territory crowns it as the largest region within the island S.A.R. If one  is unsure of what this region could offer, it should be reminded that Lantau Island (大嶼山), which served as the base for Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) and Hong Kong Disneyland, is also a part of this region.

Sunny Bay
Traditional Chinese:
Cantonese Jyutping:
 jan1 ou3
Pin Yin:
 Xīn ào

Pronounced as:
yaan ou

If you were to visit Hong Kong Disneyland, then you will need to transit between MTR on this station. Basically there isn't anything around this station.

The New Territories were not originally of interest to the British Empire when they acquired Hong Kong island and Kowloon through cessation, but a bubonic plague (commonly known as Black Death) breakout on the territories alarmed the then government. The need to expand to accommodate the growing population was dire, coupled with their fear for the island's security due to European powers' encroachment in China, pushed towards the empire's demand for extension of the Hong Kong territories towards the current New Territories.

While not exactly appealing to most tourists, it is worth noting that this is truly the off the beaten path place of Hong Kong. In stark contrast with its two neighboring region, tall skyscrapers and businessmen in expensive suits are uncommon here, though not unseen. 

Sha Tin
Traditional Chinese: 沙田
Cantonese Jyutping: saa1 tin4Pin Yin: Shā Tián
Pronounced as:
saa teen
High rise dotted the landscape but it is still comparably less than in Kowloon. Less glitzy here but you could see more of the rural Hong Kong which is not within part of most travel brochures. And of course, Snoopy has a world of its own here... ^^

If you were to spend some time in research prior to visiting Hong Kong, the New Territories reveals itself as full of surprises and hidden treasures. My recently concluded series on Snoopy's World lies in Sha Tin (Snoopy's World (史諾比開心世界) article), and the feedback from most of my friends that they were unaware of this thematic playground featuring the famous beagle surprised me as well.

A famous location which most travelers could relate to New Territories will be Wong Tai Sin, the area which accommodates the famous temple of the same name. If one were to travel northward of Kowloon, there lies more in surprise. The norther one travels, the more it looks like rural China and less like rural Hong Kong.

Just so that it is understood, the surrounding islands of Hong Kong, with the exception of Hong Kong island, are considered as part of the New Territories. So this includes the largest island of the S.A.R., Lantau island, where HKIA, Disneyland and the giant Buddha statue reside.

So what can you learn from the MTR stations here? For one, most of the stations here are not underground. Out with the gloomy and unimpressive tunnels and in came the open and sunny landscapes. Traveling through the New Territories in MTR can be much more exciting - you could revel in the rural vistas and open countryside. Yes, even Hong Kong has a countryside.

Unlike other lines which bring commuters all the way to the end of the line, certain trains stop at Sha Tin station. I found this out only when the train stops there and everyone disembarks, but fortunately I was going to disembark here as well since my destination was Snoopy's World and Hong Kong Heritage Museum. So if one were to plan to travel to the more northern rural areas, it would be wise to allocate more traveling time to that leg since the train service to the far north is more spaced out during non-peak hours, thus requiring more waiting time.

More reading is available here for New Territories:

Environment:         Transportation hub
Suitable for:           As a popular means of transportation, the MTR stations allow the traveler to see people from different walks of life and the way they interact with each other. A definite way to see Hong Kong.


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